There was a flood of new, mainstream reviewers talking about Outlander this week (E! has been on it from the start, but they’re the ones who broke the newest pictures on Thursday, the scintillating one above included). The attention is GREAT news for our series—the payoff for not only a quality show but an extraordinary, inhuman volume of PR work. All of the articles and interviews have boggled my thoughts about last week’s episode, though. It’s tough to take in and process the myriad reactions there were to Lallybroch.
That’s another difference between a television review and a storytelling study (I laid out the main differences, as I see them, in last week’s post). If I claimed to be a true reviewer, reading other critiques before writing my own would be like scamming the exam answers over the shoulder of the brainiac in seat next to mine. As it is, I’m studying how this great story is reaching and affecting its audience, as much I’m examining the adaptation on its own merits. As Maurice Sendak said: “There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” That’s just as true about good television.
You can have your cake and eat it too, if you choose to
The most vehement opinions, both in support of and disparaging of Lallybroch, are coming from those who read the novels. With each passing week, the “that’s now how it was in the book” outcry is escalating on one side, while the “Everything is Awesome!” automatons on the other side are deriding anyone with anything bad to say. Both reactions are natural, even valid within reason. Viewers, regardless of the book familiarity and life experience they bring to the show, are becoming more invested as the stakes and tensions continue to rise. Deviations from expectations become personal, causing any number of minimizing (“Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!”) and maximizing (How dare my favorite line be omitted from the novel, and has anyone noticed that Cait’s too tall and doesn’t have whisky-amber eyes?) defensive patterns. Yes, I went back to my Psych 101 notes to look up those terms.
Recognizing the flagship series for which Basket of Kisses was founded, I think it’s high time to look at how Outlander‘s doing in two psychological categories for which Mad Men set the standard: patient plot weaving and nuanced character development.